PGMA assures U.S. Filipino community she’s on top of situation on relief, rescue operations
OPS 26 JUNE 2008
WASHINGTON – June 25 (via PLDT) – President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo today assured the Filipino community here that she is completely engaged “on a minute to minute basis” in the rescue, relief and rehabilitation efforts in the Philippines in the wake of “Typhoon” Frank widespread damage in the Philippines.
In her message at the reception for the Filipino community in Washington DC held at the Willard Hotel where she is staying, the President said she is in constant touch with officials and agencies involved in post-typhoon operations.
“We are completely engaged with activities on the ground practically on a minute-by-minute basis,” she told the overflowing crowd at Willard Hotel’s main ballroom.
She said that as of 6 p.m., Jan. 25 Manila time, or 6 a.m. Jan. 24, Washington time, the total number of affected families was 400,000 in 3,000 barangays, 200 municipalities and 38 cities in 38 provinces in the Ilocos region, Central Luzon, Southern Tagalog and Metro Manila.
She pointed out that she had been calling disaster coordinating council meetings almost daily, as she shrugged off calls for her to cut short her working visit to the United States and return home to oversee the rescue and relief efforts.
“We have been coordinating disaster relief/and aid from allies here in Washington and everywhere else,” the President told the Filipino community.
During the reception, Filipinos based in Washington chipped in more than P100,000 as their “initial” contribution to the typhoon relief operations back home.
“We are doing everything possible to aid in the cleanup, provide disaster relief, and bring comfort to the families of the victims. We are holding the ferry company accountable, to ensure that we find out how this ferry tragedy could have occurred, so that we can take steps to make sure it never happens again,” she said.
She expressed her gratitude to President Bush for the US government’s quick response to her request for assistance in the aftermath of the typhoon.
When she arrived in Washington, the President said, President Bush sent the USNS Stockhom, two helicopters, a P-3 marine surveillance aircraft and US Navy divers to help in the rescue and recovery effort.
During her meeting with the US President, the latter dispatched the aircraft carrier Ronald Reagan to Philippines, along with one cruiser, three destroyers and one frigate and other supporting vessels.
The vessels will assist in transporting cargo, aerial damage assessment, search and rescue, production and delivery of potable water, medical assistance and machinery repair, the President said.
She thanked the kababayans for their remittances which have “immensely contributed to the growing Philippine economy.”
“It has helped us afford our rice self-sufficiency program,” the President added.
She explained that while Filipino farmers are the most productive in Asia, the Philippines has a smaller landmass for rice production compared to Thailand or Vietnam, among other countries.
“The Philippines is a rocky, densely populated archipelago, with relatively few sources of fresh water, and frequently visited by typhoons. Still, we are 90 percent rice self-sufficient today,” she added.
The President pointed out that historically, it is cheaper for the country to source out its rice supply requirements from markets instead of going for self-sufficiency in the staple food.
“But the new economics of global food security now make it imperative that we control our own destiny in terms of rice. We are moving to rice self-sufficiency within five years,” she said.